It just got a lot easier for the Cargill corporation to pave over San Francisco Bay wetlands to build offices, condos, and strip malls.
At Cargill’s request, Trump’s EPA recently issued a decision that former South Bay wetlands aren’t covered by the Clean Water Act. That’s where the multi-national corporation wants to build.
EPA’s action removes a significant hurdle to Cargill’s plans for paving and building on a low-lying shoreline area.
These salt ponds are one of the last large undeveloped areas along the Bay shoreline. Not only should these salt ponds not be paved over—they should be restored to wetlands that can help protect the South Bay against sea level rise and flooding.
"It's ridiculous to put buildings there," said Baykeeper Scientist Ian Wren. "Because of sea level rise, those structures will be partly underwater in 50 to 80 years."
EPA’s decision ignores previous judicial decisions that salt ponds are waterways that should be protected. It’s a dangerous legal precedent for rolling back clean water protections on wetland areas.
“EPA has no basis for deciding these salt ponds are no longer covered by the Clean Water Act, and it’s in fact reversing itself on a prior 2016 draft determining the ponds are protected," said Erica Maharg, Baykeeper Managing Attorney. "They’re simply ignoring the fact that the ponds are part of San Francisco Bay. It’s clearly a political decision made to serve corporate interests.”
The developers still need approvals from the leaders of Redwood City, where the salt ponds are located, and from regional regulators. Baykeeper will stand firm to oppose the unwise development.
"Baykeeper has been advocating against building on the salt ponds for decades, along with many members of the community. We’ll be ready to fight this time, too," said Erica.
Right now, Cargill uses the former wetlands to manufacture salt. The bright yellow and red salt ponds are visible from airplanes flying in and out of San Francisco airport.
The salt ponds already provide habitat for wildlife, including many species of shorebirds and water birds. In fact, part of the nearby Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge includes restored former salt ponds.
We’ll keep fighting until Cargill’s bad development plans are rejected and the salt ponds can be restored to wetlands that better protect the Bay.